WORLD NEWS TOMORROW – EU-The proposal is part of a series of possible measures to clamp down on international child abduction, including so-called “tug-of-love” cases, under consideration.
A report published by the European Commission recommends attaching an insert into all children’s passports which can be scanned by immigration officers to read detailed information about adults they would come into contact with.
One of the most important details stored would be exact custody arrangements for children whose parents are separated or divorced.
The idea is to make it easier for border guards to identify children being taken abroad illegally, either by strangers or parents or relatives who are not authorized to do so.
Lawyers specializing in child abduction cases said it could be a valuable tool to alert immigration officials about suspicious cases. But civil liberties groups warned it could become a “Big Brother chip” creating a culture in which millions of parents taking their children on holiday be viewed as potential child abductors.
The Foreign Office deals with almost 600 cases a year in the UK of suspected abduction involving estranged parents but believes the true figure could be higher.
Lawyers say the current measures enabling police and immigration officials to step in to prevent children at risk of abduction leaving the country are not strong enough.
The current system relies on police engaging in a race against time, dashing to the High Court in London to secure an order to stop would-be abductors boarding planes.
In the UK adults traveling with children who are not obviously theirs, including mothers with different surnames to their children, are advised – but not required – to bring a letter of authorization or evidence such as birth certificates.
The report compiled by experts for the Home Affairs division of the EC r recommends introducing a standardized consent form for every child traveling outside of the EU.
It suggests that this could take the form of a machine-readable insert to passports. Philip Rhodes, a specialist family lawyer who handles abduction cases at Pannone, said it could make a major difference, by alerting immigration officials quickly to adults attempting to take children abroad without consent.
“The main advantage is that it will implement a consistent, uniform approach which doesn’t exist at the moment,” he said. “It will shift the emphasis away from the police and passes the power to perhaps more relevant bodies such as people at border control.”
But Josie Appleton, convener of the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against intrusive regulation, said: “To have as the default presumption that any adult travelling with a child is potentially abducting them is to turn things upside down and suspect everyone of something which actually involves a very small number of children.
“Passports have always had very basic information, such as your date of birth.